US says China playing ‘blame game’ in trade battle

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping speak during a joint statement in Beijing on November 9, 2017. Image copyright Getty Images

The US has said China is playing a “blame game,” misrepresenting trade talks between the two countries.

In a statement, the Trump administration also accused China of “backpedalling” on trade agreements.

The comments come in response to Beijing’s release of a paper blaming Washington for the setback in talks.

The US reignited the trade war last month by raising tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate.

The two countries have been in an escalating conflict over trade for the past year. The scope of the battle has expanded in recent months as Washington has tightened trade restrictions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

Hopes for an imminent trade deal were shattered in May after the Trump administration more than doubled tariffs on $200bn (£157.9bn) of Chinese imports and threatened additional duties.

“Our negotiating positions have been consistent throughout these talks, and China backpedalled on important elements of what the parties had agreed to,” a statement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said.

The statement said the US was “disappointed” the Chinese had chosen in recent public statements “to pursue a blame game misrepresenting the nature and history of trade negotiations between the two countries”.

Beijing released a “White Paper” on Sunday, which set out China’s position in trade talks including some of its prerequisites for a deal.

In the paper, China said in order to reach a deal “the US should remove all additional tariffs imposed on Chinese exports”.

While China was willing to work together with the US to reach a “mutually beneficial and win-win agreement”, the paper said “mutual respect” was key.

“One side should not cross the other’s ‘red lines’. The right to development cannot be sacrificed, still the less can sovereignty be undermined,” it said.

Sticking points throughout US-China trade talks have included whether and how fast to roll back tariffs, as well as how to enforce any trade deal.

The US has wanted to keep tariffs in place as part of the enforcement mechanism and to be the sole arbiter of whether China had broken the terms of the deal, analysts say.

“Our insistence on detailed and enforceable commitments from the Chinese in no way constitutes a threat to Chinese sovereignty,” the USTR said.

Trade war fallout

The trade war is already weighing on the global economy and China’s “White Paper” laid out some of its impact so far.

China’s export volumes to the US fell by 9.7% year-on-year in the first four months of 2019 due to the US tariff measures.

According to Chinese statistics, direct investment by Chinese companies into the US dropped 10% year-on-year in 2018, the paper said.

No official trade talks have been scheduled since the last round ended in May.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump are expected to meet at the G20 meeting of leaders in Japan later this month.

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